Great frame, but the rest of the kit doesn't match it… especially the tyres
Weight: 8800g Contact: www.chainreactioncycles.com
'We present the Dark Plasma. Carbon fibre frame. Quality components. Top performance. Affordable price.' say Vitus on their website, well it's only polite that roadcc takes a look to give a second opinion.
Vitus makes a return to the UK market via Chain Reaction Cycles with a road range of 6 of which the Dark Plasma is the start of the carbon framed bikes. Aimed at the recreational / club racer the Dark Plasma is marketed at a very busy price point up against some very good competition.
A custom moulded high-modulus carbon frame and fork finished off with a 12k weave are at the heart of the Vitus and a very good frameset it is to. The thick tubes and differing profiles look great as does the flowing arc of the toptube into the wishbone seatstays while the finish is impeccable with that 12k finish peeping through behind the logos. At 8.8kg (19.4lbs) the Dark Plasma is far from lightweight which is mostly to do with the components but the frame seems to shrug this off as it feels light when you are riding it.
The frame provides a very stiff ride yet without any form of road vibration getting through to your contact points and just loves to be pushed hard. A shortish headtube giving a low front end (shop models won't have the huge amount of spacers our test model comes with) and the stiff full carbon fork means handling is kept tight tracking wherever you point the handlebars. That short headtube also makes the Vitus ideal for the odd time-trial where a set of clip-ons should keep you in an aero position meaning the Dark Plasma is very versatile.
Every bike has compromises in terms of equipment to hit the necessary price point but these are quite noticeable on the Dark Plasma due to the money that's been put into providing such a great frame. A complete Tiagra groupset (apart from a SRAM cassette and KMC chain) provides reliable shifting if not the most refined compared to Shimano's 105 and above groupsets, at times the shifting feels almost stodgy which is at odds with the stiffness coming from the frame and fork.
A 12-26 tooth 9 speed cassette paired with the 34/50T chainset gives plenty of gear range to continue the do it all theme that Vitus are aiming for. The brakes though are another story. Stopping distances are just scary. I'm guessing its down to a really hard pad compound that just doesn't grip the rim I've had similar experiences with these rims before the calipers themselves are fine it's just the standrd pads that are the issue.
The wheels are Vitus branded Pro-Lite which look good and stayed true throughout the test period. A bit on the hefty side but they roll well and no side to side flex was felt on the climbs or descent. There was some play in the rear bearings after about 700 miles which will be easily sorted with a bit of adjustment. The first upgrade to make though are to the tyres, Schwalbe Blizzards are just about the deadest tyres I've ever ridden. Grip is good but they just spoil the ride taking all of the feeling out of the frame. For a part of the test period I swapped the for some Hutchison Fusion 3 tyres and the ride was completely transformed, the bike felt much livelier and the feedback was great.
The stiffness of the frame is complemented by the Controltech One components, the oversize bars feel solid with no flex and the performance from the stem matches. An alloy seatpost with a 31.6mm diameter shows how good the frame is at distributing road buzz as this is about as stiff as you can get. The Vitus saddle is comfortable with just the right amount of padding and a bit of nose flex when you are on the drops.
Overall the Dark Plasma is a good bike but the frame far surpasses the kit level on offer. With competition from the likes of Focus, Ribble and Planet X all having carbon framed bikes at the £1000 mark I don't think the Vitus is going to get the recognition it deserves. This bike is likely to be bought as a first serious bike once the purchaser has decided to invest further into the sport and I think the spec levels of the competitors will outshine the Dark Plasma. The frame is great and a joy to ride plus its ripe for upgrading but I do think Vitus are missing a trick here by not offering a frame and fork only option as both Ribble and Planet X do. At the very least change the tyres and no matter what type of riding you do you the Dark Plasma will perform. In its current build the Vitus is just missing that little bit of spark to make that step from great frameset to great bike.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Vitus Dark Plasma
Size tested: 54cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
High-modulus carbon fibre, 12k weave finish frame and fork
Controltech finishing kit
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Vitus have aimed the Dark Plasma at the recreational racer/club rider. Ideal for Sportive, audax, racing. I agree that it'll take most things in its stride.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
the frame is finished to a very high standard and looks great in the flesh
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
High-modulus carbon custom moulded to Vitus' specifications to deliver the right ride characteristics
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Frame Measurements 50cm 53cm 55cm 58cm
A Top Tube (effective) 522.3mm 533.6mm 549.4mm 570mm
B Head Angle 72 72 72.5 73
C Seat Angle 74.5 74 73.5 73
D Chain Stay 406mm 406mm 406mm 406mm
E HeadTube 125mm 145mm 160mm 180mm
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Top tube length was pretty much bang on with what you'd expect for its size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, the frame rides great, stiff yet absorbing
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes stiff where its needed, bottom bracket area for one
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well, no flex felt through the frame and fork. Let down though by the tyres
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, not to much of a problem once you know its there. only really likely to happen at a standstill
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Handling was surefooted and tracked well, although lively the sterring wasn't sketchy
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The frame's shock absorbance goes a long way to keep things comfortable along with the supportive saddle
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The frame/fork and the Controltech components are very stiff
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
A lot of the good work being done by the frame and fork is lost by the tyres and to some degree the heavy wheels
As it is n terms of sprinting those tyres just kill it meaning I only think it's good rather than very good
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Everything works fine but it lacks the confident feel of the newer Shimano groupsets, almost feels a bit spongy
Wheels and tyres
wheels were pretty good, small issue with play in the bearings
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Change the tyres straight away they spoil every aspect of the ride and just make the bike feel average on anything but a flat road
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
All works well, super stiff and nice ergonomics on the handlebars
Did you enjoy riding the bike? 50/50 with different tyres it was a much better ride
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? yes, its worth considering for the frame and fork alone
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
If this was a test of the frame and fork only it would get an 8 as I feel it really is that good. This one was a real toughie to review. It's a bike that works as parts but just doesn't seem to gel as a package. The low marks are mostly down to the tyres, I know I keep going on about them but they really do spoil the whole feel of the bike. If you can afford it I'd go for the Dark Plasma VR as its upgraded to the new Shimano 105 which due to the solid performance and improved ergonomics will complement the frame much better. On the other hand you might also want to check out In terms of the value I was comparing it with Ribble's carbon frame, both different in terms of ride but the same in performance and quality but with the same build the Ribble is £200 cheaper and even with the new 105 it's still £50 cheaper.
About the tester
I usually ride: Ribble Winter Trainer for commuting My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,